I’m not sure where it stems from, but I have a real problem with the word fine.
It’s just one of those words that says… nothing really.
And while I’m the first to advocate clear and simple speech and writing, fine just doesn’t cut it.
In the UK it was often used about the weather.
How’s it looking out there? Fine.
It was more an acknowledgement that it wasn’t raining, than an endorsement that the weather was clear and beautiful.
But the worst has to be when someone is commenting on your appearance.
How do I look? Fine.
No, I’m sorry I don’t look fine. I can look good or great or a mess, but never just fine.
My husband’s got used to my reaction to the word over the years, but if he ever wants to wind me up, he knows this is the way to do it.
Or if you cook something new.
How does it taste? Fine.
NO! It can taste yummy, sweet, salty, bland, horrible. But please, never fine!
A few years ago we were at the theatre to see the play Red, by American writer John Logan.
There’s an explosive speech in Scene 4 by the character Mark Rothko, an artist, who unleashes his anger at his assistant, Ken.
After the first few words my husband and I turned to look at each other.
I gave him a nod. Internally, I was punching the air with joy.
ROTHKO: (Explodes.) “Pretty.” “Beautiful.” “Nice.” “Fine.” That’s our life now! Everything’s “fine.” We put on the funny nose and glasses and slip on the banana peel and the TV makes everything happy and everyone’s laughing all the time, it’s all so goddamn funny, it’s our constitutional right to be amused all the time, isn’t it?
We’re a smirking nation, living under the tyranny of “fine.” How are you? Fine. How was your day? Fine. How are you feeling? Fine. How did you like the painting? Fine. Want some dinner? Fine.
Well, let me tell you, everything is not fine! (He spins to his paintings.)
HOW ARE YOU?! …HOW WAS YOUR DAY?! …HOW ARE YOU FEELING? Conflicted. Nuanced. Troubled. Diseased. Doomed. I am not fine. We are not fine. We are anything but fine…
Look at these pictures. Look at them! You see the dark rectangle, like a doorway, an aperture, yes but it’s also a gaping mouth letting out a silent howl of something feral and foul and primal and REAL. Not nice. Not fine. Real. A moan of rapture. Something divine or damned. Something immortal, not comic books or soup cans, something beyond me and beyond now. And whatever it is, it’s not pretty and it’s not fine…